Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (54)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

39 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on a new attempt to establish the United National Relief and Rehabilitation Agency as originally suggested after World War II in view of the present situation in such countries as Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4182/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, UNRRA, was founded in 1943, during the Second World War, to provide assistance in areas liberated from the Axis powers. UNRRA focused on, inter alia, assistance to refugees, distribution of emergency supplies and the restoration of basic services. UNRRA discontinued its operations in 1949. The functions of UNRRA were transferred to other UN agencies, including UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR.

Since the Second World War, the United Nations has developed a group of specialised agencies to address humanitarian, recovery and development needs throughout the world. These agencies include the World Food Programme, WFP, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, UNICEF, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA. These agencies have established an excellent reputation in all aspects of humanitarian and recovery operations and in longer-term development activities. They are active throughout the world including in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. Specialised agencies of the United Nations are co-ordinated in their humanitarian operations by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, which has the mandate to co-ordinate UN assistance in humanitarian crises that go beyond the capacity and mandate of any single humanitarian agency. Over the years, OCHA has developed greatly its capacity for effective co-ordination and played important roles in Afghanistan, Iraq and recently in Iran.

Ireland is a strong advocate of co-ordination in all development activities. Such co-ordination is essential for effective humanitarian and development impact. Ireland is therefore a substantial supporter of OCHA and its mandate. Ireland is a member of the OCHA working group which meets at technical level in Geneva on a regular basis. The working group is a forum for dialogue between major donors and OCHA officials. OCHA received €2.6 million in emergency and recovery funding from Ireland in 2003. This funding was allocated to OCHA programmes in Iraq, Liberia, West Africa, Iran and in support for OCHA's general work programme for 2004.

The United Nations Development Group, UNDG, was established by the UN Secretary General in 1997, to improve the effectiveness of UN development interventions at country level. The UNDG brings together the operational agencies working on development. The group is chaired by the administrator of the UNDP on behalf of the Secretary General. The UNDG develops policies and procedures that allow member agencies to work together and analyse country issues, plan support strategies, implement support programmes, monitor results and advocate for change. These initiatives increase UN impact in helping countries achieve the millennium development goals, MDGs, including poverty reduction. Ireland supports the work of the UNDG.

There is always room for improvement in co-ordination of humanitarian operations and long-term development activities. I believe that the best way forward, in seeking to improve the way the UN and the international community responds to emergencies and development, is to improve the existing instruments, such as the UN and its specialised agencies, rather than the reconstitution of an organisation such as the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, which has not been operational for 55 years.